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Cleaning sprays have an impact on lung health comparable to cigarettes (independent.co.uk)
403 points by ClintEhrlich 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 151 comments

I clean with a steamer. It doesn't project particles, and it's extremely good at disinfecting. I also use a vacuum cleaner with exceptionally low dust re-emission. And an air purifier.

The only "chemicals" I use are an extremely mild lactic acid based cleaner and a pre/probiotic on toilets and kitchen tops. And I don't use any fragrances anywhere.

My allergy problems have disappeared. I really recommend this approach. Cheap chemicals are a disaster for ones health.

Microfibres are cool, but I've seen inconclusive evidence they might shed asbesto-like particles. So I'm waiting for better testing.

Per the hygiene hypothesis, I wonder if your allergies got better because you’re exposing yourself to more (generally harmless) microorganisms and hence challenging your immune system more. Since I’m sure lactic acid doesn’t sterilize as well as some strong bleach or other chemical.

Anecdata: my wife’s allergies come and go quite predictably switching between regular and hypoallergenic soaps and laundry detergents. Especially with laundry detergent a single load with the wrong detergent can have her sneezing all day. That doesn’t fit the micro organism exposure theory.

Myself I have an allergy to grass pollen, but the catalyst that really brings it out is car exhaust. Personally I believe that the chemicals in our environment are catalysts for natural sensitivities, turning them into allergies.

I recently (in the last 3 weeks) developed an allergy to heavily fragranced laundry detergent. It's the first persistent allergic reaction I've really ever had. We usually use a very mild unscented detergent but my mother in law was staying with us for a little while and uses Tide and she washed some of my clothes. I generally have sensitive skin and so it was quite a shock. I was bruising all over my body just from light but compulsory scratching. It seems to have passed but it's given me a new found appreciation for using mild chemicals for cleaning, etc...

This is still compatible with the hygiene hypothesis. It could be that your wife grew up in a “too clean” environment and hence her immune system became hypersensitive to substances that anybody in a less clean developing country would have no issues with. She has legitimate allergies; the hygiene hypothesis just tries to explain why many people get allergies in the first place.

A hypothesis which permits compatibility with any reality it is of limited practical value.

If it's ultimately not falsifiable, it's not science.

It’s a completely testable and falsifiable hypothesis. The original commenter seemed to be dismissing the hypothesis based on an anecdote that he thought falsified the hypothesis and I was pointing out that it does not. Of course any hypothesis that cannot be falsified is not worth entertaining.

How would you falsify your hypothesis that the wife's allergies are from a "too clean" environment?

You can’t, in general, test something that already happened. Moreover, given the immune system is a complex system with some degree of randomness involved, it would probably be impossible to prove that any particular person’s allergies were caused by a too clean environment. But we can certainly study it at a population level and it can be falsified with populations.

This is similar to smoking. Smoking is a good explanation for a large amount of the cases of lung disease at the population level and is falsifiable at that level. But it is impossible to say that smoking caused a particular person’s lung cancer.

So my original comment of “I wonder if...” is just that. A musing, not a hypothesis. I can’t prove anything for a particular person. But maybe more people will be aware of the hygiene hypothesis and might take it into consideration.

So how would you falsify “the population with his wife’s allergy often get it from sources other than a too clean environment”?

Sounds just like me. One thing at a time can be ok but combinations really triggers. Sneezing constantly for hours is not fun. Antihistamin helps a lot by removing the pollen side and then I can stand the bad air pollution from cars.

Friends washing their clothes in perfume however there is no cure for yet.

The idea that allergies somehow are caused by our sterile lifestyle is suspicious at best. It's might just be an appeal to nature - "all natural ingredients" fallacy.

I claim that an individual has never before - in the history of mankind - been exposed to so many and different microorganisms as we are now.

Comparing my daughter to my granddad, born 99 years before her, she probably meets as many "new" people per week - if not day, as he did in a whole year when growing up in a reasonably average community not far from a large city.

Me and my wife works in large organisations, and it's representatives are visiting or are visited by hundreds of people from around the world - every week, as do many - most in fact - of the other parents in her school of about 1000 students.

I have lunch in a canteen where approximately 3000 people eat every day, and we all are slopping around in the food warmers and salad bar sharing the utensils and pawing the bread with our halfheartedly washed hands.

On the way to our offices and schools we commute with thousands and thousands of people, all sniffling and coughing it seems.

The interconnectedness of it all is just - mind boggling. We are never more than 2 steps away from someone that were on the other side of the world, yesterday. Hopefully not in an Ebola zone.

A hypothetical "natural" state, where you sleep in a stack of hay with your pigs, and meet one "outsider" twice a a year doesn't seem to tax the immune system even a fraction of what we have to deal with today. Even it's a lot of microorganisms, it's yours (and the pigs) - unless some pigeons shit in your haystack/bed.

The body of scientific evidence supporting the hygiene hypothesis is pretty strong.

I am reading An Epidemic of Absence (http://www.moisesvm.com/) which explores the hypothesis and it presents a plethora of cases and studies that support it. I have not searched for counter points but it seems pretty solid to me. I can recommend the book by the way.

One major thing we are no longer exposed to are parasites. Those were common before but they are now pretty much inexistant in western civilization.

i doubt you exchange bodily fluids with 1000s of people around you. maybe some, but not 1000s. AC and recycled air, on the other hand, are completely devoid of microorganisms that travel through the air. allergies is a north american thing, virtually unknown to other parts of the world.

EDIT: AC and the recycled air is the actual point of this comment. fluids was the joke, apologies to offended. north america breathes AC recycled air. no one else does. at least not to this extent. at the same time, one of the standard conversation topics amongst immigrants (to NA) is "wtf does everyone here have allergies and what are they anyway?". until they develop their own after living here for a number of years.

I never cleaned much before. I think the key is that I now get rid of some nasty allergens very efficiently (e.g dust mites or diesel fumes with my air filter) and I don't spread around artificial fragrances.

Care to point to Amazon(or other sites) product pages? May be useful for some of us looking to buy.

Windex sells lactic acid cleaner readily available in stores. It's the yellow stuff, it looks like pee but it does the job.

Almost all household cleaning sprays use lactic acid. Its smell is less irritating than acetic acid, so presumably you can inhale more of it until you cough...

Is that the same as windex vinegar? That’s what we use as our low-level cleaning agent.

Vinegar is acetic acid.

Nah, the vinegar is the clear stuff. The yellow stuff is labeled "Windex Multisurface" I think (no "with Vinegar") and is clear yellow, not perfectly clear.

My friend started a company that sells high pH water for cleaning/disinfecting. https://phurwater.com/science/

What on earth is high pH water? Water has a pH. If something has a high pH it's not water.

According to the company's documentation it is basically (hah!) a pH 11-12.5 solution of sodium hydroxide, aka lye: http://phurwater.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/MSDS-Cleaner...

You can call this water insomuch that it contains water (kind of like wine)

So basically, you can pay $22 to have them mix an unknown amount of NaOH into 32oz of water, or you can buy 5 lbs of NaOH off Amazon for $19[1] and mix it into water yourself. A lifetime supply of "phurwater" for less than the price of a single bottle, without even shopping around--this was the first search result on DuckDuckGo.

What incredible crap.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Grade-Sodium-Hydroxide-Micro-Beads/dp...

200 PPM if their MSDS[1] is to be believed, but damn. This is the best marketing I've ever seen for the most inane product this side of a dodgy ICO.

[1]: http://phurwater.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/MSDS-Cleaner...

"A fool is born every minute..."

> Product Description: 0.02% Sodium Hydroxide Solution generated Electro-Chemically from Diluted Brine

I am curious as well what steamer and products you are using?

I use a Kärcher SC3 steam cleaner. It's cheap (~€100) and pretty good. Even the SC2 is decent. As an alternative, Polti high-end ones are excellent. They invented domestic steamers, and I've seen some used at hospitals. The have accessories for e.g. steaming your mattress to get rid of dust mites.

I use a Miele C3 Silence vacuum cleaner. It's the cheapest (~€220) Miele vacuum cleaner that has top (A class in EU) filtration. More expensive models just buy you more accessories. Sadly, Mieles are super expensive in the US, and you can't do arbitrage due to different voltage. Nilfisk made in Denmark used to be extraordinary, but now they are pretty mediocre. /u/touchmyfuckingcoffee is a very famous vacuum technician in Reddit, and he recommends Miele and Riccar. He doesn't like bagless. Neither do i. Worse filtration and a mess to dispose if you are allergic.

I use a Coway 1008 DH air filter. It's cheap (€400), efficient, and uses low energy. IQAir has great reputation, but in some tests it has shown mediocre performance [1]. Perhaps these tests are not measuring particles in the smallest range, where IQAir claims to excel. I've seen some guys from IQAir at HN, perhaps they can clarify.

For house cleaning I use stuff from Sonett. Bio-D is also good, cheaper and easier to find. I also use probiotics from Chrisal. In the US, these might not be easy to find. I'm sure there are equivalent brands there. Check their ingredient lists. Bio-D cleaning stuff is so safe their hand soap is basically the same formula as their countertop cleaner. Many items are certified by Allergy UK.

I'm happy to hear any other recommendations from fellow allergics. I also found a two-stage filter for my shower (Sprite + Vitamin C Sonaki) did wonders to avoid spraying chlorine into my airways and reduce inflammation and itchiness.

[1] https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-air-purifier/

I use a Kärcher SC3 steam cleaner. It's cheap (~€100) and pretty good. Even the SC2 is decent.

I'd like to add a me-too. We bought a Kärcher SC3 to remove old wallpaper when we moved to another apartment (IIRC the price of hiring a steamer for a couple of days made buying one attractive). We use it now to clean our tiled floors, the bathroom, etc. and it has been excellent. The hot steam removes most stains without much effort, it works without detergents, and it is far less work than mopping the floor.

Can you use it to clean something like the counter top of the kitchen and non-tile floors (i.e. wood or laminated floors)?

I don’t know. We have used it twice or so on laminated floor, but I don’t know the longer-term effects. Most of the surface in our apartment is tiled.

Do the steam cleaners work with hard water? Our area has really hard water and I need to use a reverse osmosis filter even for our humidifier otherwise the scaling is really bad and accumulates quickly.

The SC3 comes with a cartridge that claims to soften water and reduce issues.

In any case, they use little water. Like 1 tank for 90 m^2. You can always buy distilled water, or use water from your osmosis filter.

Can you share the source for "that has top (A class in EU) filtration" please? I might be buying a new vacuum soon and would like to research it well before doing so.

Most online ads in EU include this information. Check e.g. Amazon UK or DE. Or manufacturers websites.

I wonder, what's your opinion about DIY air filters? Like a box fan plus a furnace filter. Both are not common in Europe, but you could get a different type of fan, and affordable HEPA filters from aliexpress.

Good air filters are complex, not just an HEPA filter, but a series of stages. And an active carbon filter for chemicals.

What are these complex things they do that are anything but shoving air through a filter with a fan? How do they justify costing hundreds more than taping a HEPA filter+carbon filter to a fan yourself?

The product page for the model recommended in that wirecutter article even has a cutaway view, showing that it's just a HEPA filter + carbon filter + fan.

They look better than DIYs, are typically quieter for the same cfm, and optionally have an automatic mode where the fan speed changes based on the detected air quality.

But yeah if you don't care how they look or how noisy they are just assemble one yourself and blast it on max. That's what I did for two years in China and it worked (had a separate particle counter to measure PM).

Glad I'm not missing out on too much with the DIY setup, quiet would be nice though. And the auto mode certainly explains a fair chunk of the price, air quality meters seem to run at least $100.

But I thought it has been shown putting simple furnace filter on a fan is good enough. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kH5APw_SLUU

Are you talking about other filters to filter the larger particles, and carbon filters? Because aliexpress sell them too.

Thanks man! What do you think about the Hepa filters in Roomba robot vacuums?

As far as I can see, they have dust reemission class B in EU, which means they are OK, but probably leak some particles.

It's understandable. On a small machine with little power, if they put a better filter (more resistance) the vacuum is not going to have much suction.

When you say that you clean with a steamer, do you mean something like a garment steamer?

See my post below. The principle is similar, but implemented on a device for that purpose: a steam cleaner. There's also a cloth attached to scrub dirt. Hospitals use this regularly.

I recall reading an article a few years about the aerosolization of minerals in the water vapour and how inhaling them cause lung damage.

It could have been a tabloid-ish thing I don't recall where I read it but I often think about it when I am enjoying a hot shower.

> I clean with a steamer

What about mold?

If you are using the steamer regularly, this shouldn't be an issue (after all, they use steamers to get rid of mold and the temperature is enough to kill most molds). If you are going to let it sit for a while between uses, care for it properly, including letting all the hoses and implements dry completely.

Our bodies are 4-billion-year-old spaghetti code that gets added to every time it runs. They have been evolving all this time for exposure to a very particular range of chemicals. Every time you introduce a new chemical into the mix that has only been in our environment for less than 100 years, you are testing your body's ability to deal with them for the first time.

So avoid all drugs that have been around for less than 100 years?

I would say, use them sparingly.

Be aware that the mechanisms behind most modern drugs are mostly theories.

Respect the law of unintended consequences.

Listen to your body carefully, give it rest when it wants, and trust your body to do its own healing.

When your life is in danger, consider medical professionals.

loving the analogy

except that the genetic code is highly modular with multiple hierarchies, we just don't know how to read it yet

If we can't read it how do we know it's modular?

Perhaps an apt analogy would be giving a copy of Tolstoy's War and Peace to a ~5-year old and seeing how much they can read, assuming they can read/identify/understand a small handful of words.

As a former chemist, call me suspicious of these findings.

Can cleaners be an irritant to the lungs? Of course. Inhaling a lot of things can be an irritant.

Most cleaners that consumers use are surfactants sometimes mixed with alkylbenzonium disinfectants (in very low concentration). Even cleaners that are ammonia based aren't harmful.

Now on the professional side, I could believe there is risk. Some of those chemicals are very harsh.

As another former chemist, I just wanted to agree with this statement.

And for industrial cleaners, read the MSDS and act accordingly. It's not that hard to find the correct version of masks and gloves for the task you do everyday.

As someone without a Chemistry background I am just really surprised that they managed to write an entire article about other studies, without ever referencing these studies?

Also just about anything is a "chemical", and there is a plethora of cleaning products, what agent exactly in cleaning products do they speculate causes this damage?

> As a former chemist, call me suspicious of these findings.

I've been suspicious since they were posted, for a simple reason: so where's the lung cancers in aging housewives?

Agree! And on that note, where are the lung cancers in non-smokers who work/worked around second hand smoke?

Why do you believe ammonia/chemical based cleaners are not harmful when inhaled from normal day to day use?

I say that as someone who majored in human bio and can only imagine that inhaling these chemicals will have adverse effects on your health.

Ammonia is such a strong irritant you'd never be able to inhale enough (willingly) to cause systemic toxicity.

We also have a lot of info around the effects of ammonia. The body is very good at eliminating it. Heck, doctor's use ammonium chloride to acidify a patients urine.

Could you inhale enough to irritate your lungs? Sure. But it's not going to cancer or something.

Could you inhale enough to irritate your lungs? Sure. But it's not going to cancer or something.

I think we're assuming here that it's something like asbestos lung cancer. Asbestos is not a poison, just an irritant. Presumably nobody is getting poisoned here; chronic irritation is triggering problems.

Asbestos is more than an irritant. The toxicity and resulting cancer is due to the small particle size and the iron atoms in the asbestos that catalyze the formation of reactive oxygen species that damage the cell and can cause mutations.

I guess my point is that there is no mechanism by which ammonia could cause something like this. It's a simple molecule that pretty much causes irritation due to it's alkaline properties.

Thanks, I hadn't heard they finally figured out why/how asbestos was causing cancer.

If you believe cancer is due to the accumulation of mutations, and the ammonia/whatever is killing cells (thus increasing the turnover), then it will increase the chances of cancer simply because there are more divisions in the tissue.

This follows pretty simply from the idea that cancer is caused by accumulating mutations (which you seem to believe), so why do you say "no mechanism"?

The reason is because ammonia has been around a long time, lots of studies of that its effect on biological systems have been done and it naturally occurs in human blood albeit at low concentrations.

Your point about higher turnover of cells aligns with the idea of more cell division and thus higher chance of mutation. However, just because a chemical causes irritation doesn't mean it increases cell turnover.

Also, turnover alone doesn't necessarily drive mutations and scientists don't really know why. Retinol A, rapidly increase skin cell turnover and is used to treat acne, but I've never heard of a mutation risk associated with it.

> "Retinol A, rapidly increase skin cell turnover but I've never heard of a mutation risk associated with it."

Interesting, do you have a source you like for this? This would indicate major problems with that model.

I'd assume because our bodies have a pretty big buffer store to avoid pH effects, and most ammonia based derivatives would be concentrated in the external mucus membranes not the lungs, at least that's most inhaled acids work, I'm not really a bases guy.

I mean if you're inhaling anything with benzene rings on a regular basis, you should really wear a mask and so not do that, but inhaling 2x your daily dose of surfactant once a week is probably fine for the home cleaner. Skip the BBQ that weekend and it probably balances out.

“Can only imagine..” Imagine all you want, but imagining isn’t data.

Yes and correlation =/ causation despite how my brain rationalizes things. If we are talking scientific method, then my hypothesis is that inhaling ammonia frequently will result in adverse health effects. Feel free to test this out and prove otherwise.

I'm not a chemist at all, but I know that there are a lot of variables here. A link between particular cleaning products and poor lung function on the basis of anecdotal evidence about how often people clean seems tenuous at best.

In a past life as a lab tech for sterile environments, we used Spor-klenz, mostly a diluted combination of glacial acetic acid (pure distilled vinegar) and sodium hypochlorite (concentrated bleach), to kill statistically approaching anything on a surface you need sterilized. Upon application, they form chlorine gas, notorious as a chemical warfare agent in WWI. It must be used in a ventilated area, and with a respirator for any kind of prolonged exposure. Use of this combination of chemicals in an unventilated area without protective gear is sternly cautioned, as it will quickly cause lasting injury to your lungs.

It's not uncommon for commercial cleaning products to contain these ingredients, as well as other potentially hazardous combinations of chemicals, and there isn't enough awareness of the very serious consequences to their misuse.

I vividly remember my first summer job, working at a grocery store deli when I was in high school. My job was basically to spray down surfaces with some kind of industrial version of Windex. Within a week I had developed a scratchy cough, and after two weeks I had completely lost my voice! I was in the privileged position of being able to quit the job and go on to college, but if I'd kept working with those chemicals for years I don't doubt there'd have been lasting damage.

Does anyone know specifically what cleaning chemicals the study is talking about though? Always annoyed by the absence of what seems like basic information in reports like this.

I agree it's annoying the study doesn't mention any chemicals or ingredients in particular.

Also the claim that all we need is "water and a cloth" is rubbish. You will just spread the bacteria around from one place to another with water and a cloth only.

I recently started using an organic "food safe" spray in the kitchen for general surfaces and chopping boards. Smells nice very natural, all natural ingredients and stops nasty things living on the wooden cutting board. Water and a cloth would do nothing, you need to make it an unfriendly place for bacteria, but safe for cutting up food.

It just sounds like you caught something at work...

For anyone else looking for mentions of specific products, the original paper doesn't mention any. It just categorized people in to non-cleaners, cleaners at home, and professional cleaners.

Both the professional cleaners and at home cleaners were impacted.

They were relying on surveys of memory but they indicated spraying only once a week versus any other method was correlated with issues.

I got the impression that they concluded correlation, not causation.

Could be that less dust decrease lung capacity... Unlikely, but who knows?

On a related note, dentists dying of mysterious lung disease[1] likely from improper respiratory protection while exposed to breathing hazards.


How much of this is to do with the fact that these cleaners are being put into the air as vapor through a diffuser (the spray-bottle's nozzle); and how much has to do with the fact that these chemicals are volatiles that will evaporate off of the surfaces they're on and then travel into the lungs as a gas?

That is, if I wore a dust mask while I cleaned—or if I sprayed the cleaner directly into a cloth pressed against the bottle, then rubbed the cloth against the surface—would that help? It'd reduce cleanser vaporization, I'd think, but not do much to help with avoiding evaporated cleanser gas.

You might have a point, particularly considering the action of cleaning involves leaning forward and bending down into the area you just sprayed as you begin scrubbing, further exposing yourself to the misty air and fumes. I thought about this last time I cleaned shower with fan on... I figured the fan was drawing the fumes up towards me as I cleaned shower, so now I don't use fan and just try to finish the job quickly! I think there's a lot to be said for using a mask when cleaning, even if just for a slightly reduced exposure.

I’m willing to bet there are some “dreaded third variables” that have crept into the study. Also being able to find the effect on women but not men leads me to believe there might be some P-hacking going on.

The original headline says "cleaning products", which is what the study covers, but the article lede says "cleaning sprays", which is what the headline here has been edited to suggest.

Much discussion on Reddit a couple of weeks ago when this study was originally published: https://www.reddit.com/search?q=cleaning+products+lung

I don't think these results necessarily relate to cleaning products either. They just asked people how much they cleaned in a survey:

>'Based on the entrance questions (wording at http://www.ecrhs.org ), participants were categorised as “not cleaning”, “cleaning at home” and “occupational cleaning”. Participants responding “yes” to at least one module entrance question, answered a questionnaire concerning use of cleaning agents (sprays, other cleaning agents); defining the exposure categories “not cleaning”, “≥1 cleaning spray ≥1/week”, and “≥1 other cleaning product ≥1/week”.'


>"The scientists found that the amount of air breathed out by their participants decreased more in women who regularly cleaned.

The study did not find any harmful effects comparable to those seen in women in the men they studied."


>"While the results appear dramatic, the researchers speculated chemicals in cleaning products irritate the fragile mucous membranes lining the lungs, which over time leads to lasting damage and “remodelling” of the airways."


I assume "comparable" means "similar" in this sense.

But there's nothing about lung cancer, which makes the impact on lung health not remotely similar to a pack a day cigarette habit.

Smoking diminishes lung function in many ways other than eventual risk of cancer. Not every smoker gets cancer, by far, but every one has their lung function decreased.

This supports previous research that indicates there's a connection between asthma and cleaning products, particularly in occupational cleaners.

I don't see any reference to study on particular cleaning solutions, exposure times, or any particularly reliable control. I'll continue working under the assumption that long term exposure to any chemical can be associated with an increased health risk - until a more detailed study is done there's really no actionable conclusion here.

I use vinegar for light cleaning and dusting, and rubbing alcohol for almost all other household cleaning now. Isopropyl alcohol is basically magic — it sterilizes and completely evaporates with no lingering residue or fragrances. And a steam mop for the floor.

In case someone reads your comment and takes it to heart: isopropyl alcohol is not as magic as you're making it sound. It is a disinfectant but isopropyl alcohol does not sterilize. Some bacteria and spores are not killed by isopropyl alcohol, and depending on the surface you are cleaning, it can be ineffective at even disinfecting.

>Alcohols are not recommended for sterilizing medical and surgical materials principally because they lack sporicidal action and they cannot penetrate protein-rich materials. Fatal postoperative wound infections with Clostridium have occurred when alcohols were used to sterilize surgical instruments contaminated with bacterial spores. [1]

It's probably fine for most household uses, but it does not sterilize like you said it does, and if you're trying to clean something that you know is contaminated by disease-causing bacteria (eg cleaning the bathroom after someone has had the stomach flu) or someone immuno-suppressed lives in your house, you probably should reach for something stronger.

Isopropyl alcohol also, like you mentioned, evaporates quickly. You mention this as a benefit, but fast evaporation also means that you are likely inhaling a lot of alcohol particles as you clean, which is not good for your lung health either.

1: https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/disinfection...

Alcohol kills most things very well. I'm a scientist that handles lots of nasty things like MRSA and gram negative organisms that have killed their human hosts and we spray our gloves with 70% ethanol and spray down our biosafety hoods with it as do almost all labs in the world.

This is all moot probably because homes don't need disinfection (hygiene hypothesis implies you probably need the opposite) but alcohol will certainly kill most things. It would be extremely rare for you to need to kill exotic things like bacterial spores that need nuclear options like autoclaving to kill.

As you're a scientist, I'd defer to your expertise, but I will mention that the situations where alcohol falls short are with spores and when cleaning certain materials. AFAIK, MRSA does not form spores, and so alcohol would work well for disinfecting it. Your gloves and hoods are also probably made of a material that is effectively cleaned by alcohol.

On the other hand, C. difficile (a bacteria responsible for diahrea/stomach flu) does produce spores which are not killed by alcohol cleaners. Similarly, viruses like norovirus (also responsible for "stomach flu") are not effectively disinfected by alcohol, which is why I mentioned that if you're trying to clean up after a bout of stomach flu, you might want to reach for something stronger (like a bleach based cleaner).

C. diff is pretty much only killed by bleach, and not something most people deal with frequently, or you know, ever. These seem like rather special cases to be bringing up.

What? C. diff is one of the most common disease-causing bacterias [1]. Other examples like norovirus or C. perfringens (another spore-forming bacteria responsible for stomach flu) are also among the most common [2]. They aren't special cases at all.

1: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2015/p0225-clostridium-di...

2: https://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/causes/bacteriaviruses/...

Huh, I had always heard C. diff was a pretty common presence but very rarely symptomatic.

Eh, the GP did mention provisos like immuno-suppressed individuals. That's perhaps more common than you think.

Me too.

I put a white vinegar and water mixture into one of those inexpensive reusable spray bottles found in the cleaning aisle. If you need something a little stronger scrub with baking soda then squirt on vinegar, the two react together (base + acid) creating CO2 and further loosening grime as it bubbles.

I'd like rubbing alcohol, but the local supermarkets only sell it in the pharmacy and the bottles are a little small/expensive to use for cleaning ($2/ea for ish 500ml size).

Only chemical product I still use is toilet cleaner, since I've not found a safer alternative that actually works. Any suggestions there would be welcome.

Random pro-tip: They sell these spray bottles which release an ultra-fine mist. They're designed for hair/beauty but are absolutely fantastic for cleaning too. Just only put water in them as they're quite expensive relative to normal sprayers look up "Flairosol Mist Sprayer." You hand pump it a couple of times to compress, and then it mists like a deodorant. They're fantastic. Also great for hair.

Isopropyl alcohol is a godsend when it comes to smelly athletic gear. If you want to clean hockey gear, some of the worst smelling athletic gear in existence, put it in a spray bottle in a 50/50 mix with water and spray profusely. It does a remarkable job at getting rid of the smell.

When possible, I prefer to use ethanol over isopropyl. Isopropyl alcohol is toxic in a rather unpleasant way, while ethyl alcohol’s toxicity is well understood and tolerated.

Isopropyl is too expensive where I am (Australia) for general household cleaning. Otherwise I probably would use it more often.

It's not that good to inhale...

This is why I never clean.

The only winning move is to just not let dirt happen to begin with.

Or not to be obsessed with perfect cleanliness.

There is an element of that to my life in a pick your battles kind of way.

Do you live inside a bunny suit?


Dead skin cells & hair is where a lot of dust & dirt in your home begins.

I'm aware that is one source. It absolutely isn't the entire explanation.

Though I have no idea why you are taking me to task here since it was intended as tongue in cheek humor mirroring the famous movie line to the effect that "The only way to win is not to play".

However, if you want to debate this, it is humorous to me due to the element of truth that I essentially never clean, I just don't let things get dirty. But most people don't actually want to have any idea how that can be done because whenever I talk about my personal choices for my life, they feel judged in an ugly way for reasons I cannot fathom.

Not saying it is literally true that you can simply never clean. But you can do a lot more prevention than most people seem to imagine is possible.

And, of course, I have long utilized a few loop holes that will largely go away should I manage to buy a house.

So how do prevent things from getting dirty?

1. Spartan life.

Dust is created by not just hair and skin but all upholstered items, cloth items, books, particle board etc. The less of that you have, the less dust and dirt you have.

2. No deep frying.

It's the single nastiest way to cook and coats the entire kitchen in grease. It also is terrible for your health.

3. Keep your own hair short and do a lot of walking.

The lymphatic system is powered by motion. It is how the body takes out the trash. If you are clean and healthy, you leave less detritus all over the house.

4. Make it a habit.

You just get good at not letting things happen because it takes so much less effort to just not get dirty than to clean it up. Once you have a certain awareness, you just don't do things that lead to dirt.

5. Loopholes.

I currently live in an SRO. So I have neither a kitchen nor a bathroom of my own. There are facilities down the hall and management cleans them about three times a week. If I buy a house, I will have to do some cleaning that I can currently skip due to not having private facilities of my own.


Agree, deep frying should be avoided greases up surfaces even with an extractor. And I'm a fan of minimalism too.

You can have glass, metal and hard plastics for furnishings. Those are less problematic than upholstered items, wood, particle board, curtains, etc. Though you can run into acoustic issues with so many hard surfaces. Having a wood floor helps some with acoustics and is much cleaner than carpeting.

Something is odd here. From the study itself, the observed declines in lung function were only observed in females, not males. This was among respondents that identified as occupational cleaners too, so you can't just attribute that difference to "gender roles". Also, for women, the rate of decline was the same for occupational cleaners (it was their job) vs home cleaners (they cleaned their own home).

Nothing good comes from breathing cleaning spray, and this research references other pieces to suppprt that claim, but it seems possible that this research is honing in on some other common factor besides cleaning exposure, else degree of exposure is negligible in the outcomes and male biochemistry renders men immune to this effect.

I switched to vinegar-based cleaning solution. High dose inhalation of acetic acid seems to induce an acute reaction in mice without long-term effect, so I'm hoping that chronic low dose inhalation won't have an effect in humans either.

considering some people ingest vinegar for blood sugar regulation, seems like a safe way to go

I could imagine that inhaling into lungs might have a different impact from swallowing into the digestive tract. People doing blood sugar regulation are drinking, not snorting, vinegar, right?

Yes, it's very different when a child swallows an M&M to when a child inhales an M&M.

The amount used and technique for spraying probably matter. A careful cleaner may use only a very small amount as needed while some seem to think it is necessary to slather everything with concentrated soaps that leave a strong smell. We are still just coming to terms with aerosols as high powered forced air hand dryers have shown, and those were intended to minimize spread of contaminants.

Soapcalc and make your own soap: http://soapcalc.net/calc/soapcalcwp.asp

This is what I do. I have a nice batch of coconut/castor/olive/cocoa soap curing under the sink. It's literally just water, vegetable oils, and some sodium hydroxide.

Just about all bathroom and window cleaners cause shortness of breath for me. Maybe it's because I smoked tobacco for so many years. So I use diluted vinegar on windows, and baking soda plus dish detergent on surfaces. And diluted citric acid for lime, because it's faster than acetic acid.

I don't like the idea of paying someone else to clean my filth, but I don't clean often enough myself.

So I get really lazy, and soak a sponge in phosphoric acid[1] then rub it gently on the glass around the shower. Leave for 2 minutes, and the limescale in gone! It's much easier than any "real" cleaning product, and the phosphoric acid is the equivalent of about $1.50 for a litre.

But I don't know if it's bad for me. I wear gloves.

[1] "pH 1.0" and "contains phosphoric acid" is all the label says.

Just use vinegar from a pharmacy or grocery store, unless you want to needlessly risk your well-being. Acetic acid at typical household vinegar concentrations is plenty strong enough to dissolve limescale.

Where do you get phosphoric acid? The strongest conventionally available stuff is Limeaway and CLR and those are not strong enough for heavy calcium deposits. The strongest home stuff appears to be toilet bowl cleaners with diluted hydrochloric acid or hydrochloric acid for chlorinating pools.

It's from any supermarket in Denmark. This shows the whole shelf [1], which also has an acetic acid solution, ammonia solution, and sodium/potassium hydroxide for cleaning drains. And "cleaning benzene", whatever that's for. Most of the bottles are branded "BORUP", except the phosphoric acid, which is "KALK VÆK".

I found a safety information sheet [2], which says the phosphoric acid solution contains 5-15% phosphoric acid. That's stronger than Limeaway. If I pour it on limescale deposits I can hear it fizz.

The from-a-supermarket strong toilet bowl cleaner here (probably applies to most of the EU) contains "9% w/w -- 94 g/L HCl"

[1] https://shop.rema1000.dk/husholdning/rengoring-og-kemisk-tek...

[2] http://rema1000.dk/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Kalk-V%C3%A6k-...

Many disinfectants meant for cleaning brewing equipment contain it, you can order it from brewing equipment web shops.

Was anyone able to spot which cleaning sprays were problematic?

They only speculate about lung irritants like bleach and ammonia that are common in cleaning sprays.

I find it very hard to remove soap scum from bathtub if I don't use cleaning sprays. Can someone please suggest a better way.

I wonder how long it will take before the tort lawyers can sniff this.

This is why I switched from cleaning spray to chewing tobacco.

But it doesn't say which cleaners were tested. For example perhaps Simple Green is not at the same level as Formula 409.

The study [1] wasn't testing specific cleaners; it was a long-term study following people who use varying amounts of cleaning products in day-to-day use (those who don't clean, those who clean on a regular basis at home, and those who clean as an occupation).

[1] Full text: http://www.thoracic.org/about/newsroom/press-releases/resour...

Makes sense in the case of bleach, which when combined with the ammonia containing body ingredients shed off in the shower, reacts to produce chloramine, which hydrolyzes to produce hypochlorous acid, which is a strong oxidizing agent, and I assume said hydrolysis takes place in the lungs, meaning ample exposure to free radicals, which I assume can lead to cancer if inhaled often enough.

I use a 3m facemask with 2 p100 bio air filters when cleaning specifically to avoid these chemicals.

Unfortunate that all sprays are combined. One reason for the rather large sex effect might be the choice of different products by men and women. If I had to guess, bleach sprays are going to be the most damaging, but that's a guess.

This headline is just a lie. They're as bad for "lung health" if cigarettes didn't cause lung cancer!

(Lung health is measured by lung capacity by them)

Presumably better to twist nozzle to jet spray rather than mist spray?

I would think better to pour onto a container, soak a sponge, and apply.

Or squirt directly into/onto the damp sponge/cloth.

Better not to use cleaning sprays at all...

Believing a report in a general news publication that attempts to summarize the conclusion of a study that hasn't been replicated anywhere can lead to an increase in stupidity. Caveat emptor. Also, all headlines are clickbait. Get over it.

It fits in with other things we already know, though. Cleaners and their VOC are responsible for an increasing portion of ground level ozone & smog, which are also correlated with declining lung function. This would be just yet another reason to change how you clean.

Agreed. I saw an article on the front page last week about how standing desks causes more issues than sitting. The sample size was one office with 20 people.

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